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World Ocean Day, Ocean Voyager and Better Fishing
Sarah Rich, 8 Jun 06

hammerhead_school.jpg Hopefully you're recovered from World Environment Day in time to celebrate World Ocean Day, which The Ocean Project is sponsoring today by partnering in numerous events taking place all over the globe.

The world's oceans are in more than a little trouble - a fact that comes up in many of our conversations, from climate change to fishing. But it seems fit on World Ocean Day (and at Worldchanging) to talk not about the dire situation, but rather about many of the significant effors underway to find real solutions.

Mother Jones magazine has recently created Ocean Voyager, an online, interactive tool for learning about ocean issues and finding out how to take action. Ocean Voyager compiles research from numerous organizations and campaigns into short virtual voyage videos to ocean "hot spots" around the globe. The voyages address global warming, water pollution, fishing, endangered species and political agendas for change.

In other marine news, the WWF-sponsored "Smart Gear Competition" selected a 2006 winner for a technology that may save thousands of sharks from needless death. The annual competition calls for innovations in preventing the unnecessary decline of species caught by accident in fishing operations. This year's winner, Michael Herrmann of Shark Defense, invented a strategy based upon sharks' natural ability to detect magnetic fields. His solution involves placing powerful magnets above the hooks on longline fishing nets as a means of repelling sharks from the dangerous area.

The WWF also played a part in the development of a more humane and sustainable trap for catching lobsters. In Central America, overfishing of small lobsters and egg-bearing females has led to drastic depletion of lobster populations. The new traps allow smaller lobsters to escape, holding only the lobster of legal trapping size. This ultimately has benefit not just for lobsters, but for fishing economies, who recognize the need to conserve and support the species for their long-term sustainability.

These are piecemeal innovations, of course, and the world's fishing industries remain largely unsustainable. But they do point the way towards the future: if fishing now is profoundly wasteful, the marine equivalant of clearcutting forests, in the future technology may allow fishermen to practice something a little more like selective logging and sustainable forestry -- and if fishing as an industry now is short-sighted and careless, perhaps having at least one day when the eyes of the world are on the ocean will allow us to develop a fishing ethic we, and the fish, can live with.

So, happy World Ocean Day.

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